U.S. Republican candidates talk tough on terror, but lack concrete plans (News Analysis)


By Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) — The U.S. war on terrorism is expected to top the agenda of many Republican Party (GOP) candidates running for the party’s nomination after the terror attack in California, but none of them has so far produced a solid plan.

Last week, a couple armed with assault weapons launched an attack in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding 21 others. It now appears that the couple are Islamist extremists, although it remains unknown whether they took direct instruction or were simply inspired by the Islamic State (IS) or similar jihadist groups.

That came on the heels of a major attack on Paris the previous month, perpetrated by IS assailants using automatic weapons in the worst attack on the French capital since Word War II. While French leaders are taking decisive actions, U.S. President Barack Obama has been derided as waffling on the issue and seeming to lack resolve.

While he outlined a few tweaks to his administration’s anti-IS campaign — the United States has been engaged in what critics call a half-hearted bombing campaign against the extremists for over a year — critics say he seems almost disinterested.

But Obama is not the only one without a concrete plan. Critics say that while GOP candidates are talking tough on terror, none of them has put forth a serious plan to combat terrorism, either at home or abroad.

Indeed, Republican front-runner Donald Trump, an outspoken and bombastic billionaire mogul, has embarrassed the party whose nomination he is seeking to run against the Democratic nominee in 2016.

The ever-controversial candidate said in recent days that he would, if elected, halt all immigration of Muslims into the United States. His opponents, such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, upbraided the idea, and experts said it would do little to prevent terrorism, and would only amount to a side-show.

“None of the Republicans has presented a clear plan on how to combat (IS) or what to do about domestic terrorism. They talk tough, but it is not clear how they will lead the fight if elected,” Brookings Institution’s senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.

Indeed, aside from what critics called Trump’s side show, other candidates have only given vague outlines of what they might do to destroy the terror threat, rather than provide a concrete, step-by-step actionable strategy.

Meanwhile, GOP candidates continue to talk tough.

“Trump has been the toughest Republican on terrorism. He talks in very strong terms about standing up to (IS) and complaining that President Obama is weak,” West said.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who earlier in the race was seen as a possible front-runner but now lags behind, nevertheless has seemed to gain some ground on his strong stance against terrorism and the fact that as a former attorney general he prosecuted terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on neighboring New York City.

“Terrorism is a good issue for him because it strengthens his case among conservatives, who are suspicious of him on social and economic issues,” West said.

Going forward, Americans will want to see a solid plan from the candidates on how to take down terror networks after the worst terror attack on U.S. soil in more than a decade, experts said.

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